Chapter 23 : Epilogue
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The Joker and Her
The small, quiet French town had a visitor that night.
The collection of little yellow houses with high stretching roofs sliced shadows over the cobblestone ground, moonlight shafting in-between them. The peaceful stream which outlined the village lended the only sound, a musical murmur, and scented the air with its damp soil and plant life.
Out of the silence a loud crack sounded, and seconds later a figure darted through the moonlight into the shadows. He pressed his body close to one of the stone cottages, sliding along, pausing as a villager over the way opened their window and stuck their head out, awoken by the sound of the Apparition. The hooded visitor paused, concealed in the dark, until the Muggle went back inside.
He huffed in annoyance, a whisper of a sound, before continuing on his way. Having recently passed his Apparition exam, he felt it a huge annoyance that he had Apparated in the middle of the town square. Mistakes like that wouldn’t wash, not with him, and especially not with...well, in any case he had no business being late. And a casualty would have been so inconvenient.
A few minutes later, he broke free of the closely populated town centre and kept to the shade of the dense trees nearby as he approached another house, all grey stone and elongated ochre roof.
He slowed to a brisk walk as he reached the back gate, the rest of the rear of the house framed in two-metre high, pale stone. Having magically unlocked the gate, he was a few steps away from the back door before it flew open and a hand closed around the visitor’s throat, a bright light illuminating inches away from his face.
“Reveal yourself,” came a hushed, disembodied voice. “I’m out of practise with Severing Charms, and it would be so fun to—“
The visitor merely let his hood fall back to reveal his face. As if in disappointment, the hand around his throat slackened, and the light flitted to a point a few feet away. From the point of the light came the sound of a cracked egg, and steadily a man melted into existence.
He was tall, thick-set, with dark hair and eyes. His face was older than his years, folded in lines of long-endured hatred and anger. He twirled his wand between his fingers, not extinguishing the light at the end of it.
In front of him the first figure frowned darkly. “You did not ask me for any verification,” he said in a low voice and a thick French accent.
“Oh, shut it. That ugly mug of yours couldn’t look nearly as repellent if someone was just pretending to be you. Now come on, she’s waiting for you.”
The second man turned on his heel and strode back into the house, sticking his wand in a pocket. The visitor rolled his eyes in barely-restrained derision before following.
After passing the seldom-used kitchen, the first man walked through the familiar main hallway and into the drawing room, the only room in the house where light blazed freely. Several lamps had been lit around the room, and the fire softly burned, filling the room with the smell of smouldering wood.
The second man walked over to lean on one of the walls close to the fireplace, pulling his hood up to shade his face. He crossed his arms and let his chin rest on his chest. Uninterested, the first man turned away from him and to the only other person in the room. The reason he was there in the first place.
She sat in an armchair, her slender form dwarfed by the imposing wooden frame. At the sight of her young visitor she leant her elbows forward onto the table, interlacing her fingers together and resting her chin upon them. The firelight flickered on her face, setting her golden hair alight.
When her gaze flickered up to him, his lowered to the floor automatically, more of a sign of respect than any actual fear. Her tone was low and husky, and she spoke in French.
“Is it done?”
The boy jutted his chin down in a nod.
“You Imperiused her?” the bodyguard barked out a laugh, and continued in English, “I didn’t think you had it in you, Frenchie.”
The boy turned slowly, his face contorted in a sardonic grimace. “I’m sorry, I was trying to forget you were here, what did you say?”
He turned back to his master. “It is done. Though I’m not sure it was not necessary. They appear to let anybody in that place.” He sneered with disgust over his shoulder to the bodyguard.
The bodyguard growled, and his thick arm flexed, hand in his pocket, fingers wrapped around his wand.
Without warning, the boy whipped around and a flare of white light shot across the room before travelling up the bodyguards’ arm. He cried out in a mixture of pain and rage before pulling out his wand, which immediately crackled with red magic.
“Enough,” muttered the woman, who said it with the exhaustion of a woman who had already suffered the worst the world could throw at her. Having her little friends kill one another through petty contempt was not comparable, even laughable to what she had endured in her thirty-six years. Years that had destroyed all laughter and ravaged her once-unparalleled beauty. But through the frozen ashes of her downfall she had emerged; hungry, desperate, but most of all, alive. And she did not emerge – she did not survive that – to listen to pathetic squabbling.
“Children,” she uttered in her most dangerous tone, though both her visitor and her bodyguard had straightened up and put their wands away as she had opened her mouth to speak. The young guest returned to the table, where he awaited further acknowledgement.
The woman stood, revealing herself to be tall and slight. She swept around the table and closer to the window. She stood there for a few silent moments, feet planted, her hands linked behind her back.
“You’ve done good work,” she finally said to her young friend, “as you will continue to do.”
“I don’t fully understand...why I must do this,” he replied in controlled solemnity, “Why I cannot join you now. Why did I need to cast the Imperius Curse--?”
She looked over her shoulder at him, grey eyes flashing in the firelight. “Finish school first. Do what you must.”
“You must know,” she continued as she walked closer to her comrade, “that I am entrusting you with this task. Only you. Recognise the importance of that.”
He nodded again, his deep hazel eyes looking straight at hers in a moment of grave solidarity. She swept her gaze over to her bodyguard for just a second, and back. The bodyguard straightened up and crossed his arms. In that moment the three of them were silently united in their pursuit.
The visitor pulled up his hood and turned for the door.
“Bye, sweetie-pie,” said the bodyguard sardonically. The visitor walked out, leaving his remark unanswered.
When they heard the back door close and the boy’s Disapparition a few moments later, the two remaining exchanged a look, before the woman turned back to the window.
She took a deep breath. Yes, it would start now. The beginning of the end. Then, she could finally die with peace. She had already killed the one who caused her pain, and yet, it hadn’t been enough. It was because her ultimate reprisal wasn’t over.
Why did the boy have to go to Hogwarts? She still needed to kill one more.
And she went to Hogwarts School.